Year B, All Saints’ November 4, 2018 Carole Seeley
Fr. Brent and I talked about my doing a homily during Ordinary Time, and I’m delighted I get to do so today! All Saints’ Day is such a special time of remembering and celebrating the lives of our loved ones who have already gone home and await us there. And All Saints’ Day is about hope – the hope of life and living. We remember saints near and dear, here and gone, common and noble, who lit a candle of hope in a time of grief, loss, pain, fear or danger – God saying, “here I am” – the way of hope through this darkness, this time of trial and tribulation, this time of hate and divisiveness and violence and judgment. The hope of God’s grace and love as a candle – everlastingly lit – in our hearts, and the heart of all Creation. The hope of sharing what Light we have, however that is manifested.
I think of saints among us still – Malala Yousafzaia, who defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived and went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her life shines brightly as a beacon of hope and courage. Jimmy Carter, whose humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in his later years have eclipsed his politics and is a living legacy of hope. Desmond Tutu, South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist, was also honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
We remember Martin Luther King, Jr., Baptist minister and activist who became America’s most visible advocate for peace and leader in the civil rights movement, inspired hope for thousands of marginalized Americans; Elie Wiesel, the world’s leading spokesman on the Holocaust, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his life’s work of bearing witness to the genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II; and Thomas Merton, who said “If you exist, you exist in hope. To cease hoping is to cease existing. To hope, and to exist, is to have roots in God.” There are many others, quiet heroes in our own families, whose courage and hope live into future generations.
Fr. Brent asked us last week if we remembered our “elevator speech project,” and I realized mine is pretty short. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words and never stops at all.” And I know this because Hebrews 6 tells me God promised Abraham, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants” and He confirmed it with an oath so that “we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged; we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast.”
To me, All Saints’ is about hope. The readings from today’s scriptures point to a message of hope in God as we live in this broken and increasingly dangerous world. Wis. 3: 9, an alternate reading for today, says “Those who trust in [God] will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.” Hope in the future.
Isaiah 25:9 says, “In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” Hope. In verse 8, God’s achingly beautiful compassion tells us “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” Can you imagine God looking into the eyes of dirty-faced children, broken men, and hopeless, despairing women, wiping away their tears of grief and sorrow? And the people standing in awe, flooded with relief and joy, saying, “This is our God”, the one we have waited for.” The return to God. Hope.
Revelations tells us, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Definitely Hope!
Fr. Brent talked in last week’s sermon about faith. What a life of Christian faith can look life – what our lives could look like. About encountering God and responding. He points to the story of Bartimaeus as a model of “a life seeking meaning and wholeness in the midst of a broken world.”
The word “hope” is mentioned in the Bible in 105 verses, 40 chapters and 28 books. Faith and hope are very often tied closely together in the Bible. Both are about longing for peace within our souls. Seeking meaning – connection. John Philip Newell, Anglican priest and one of the most prominent Christian teachers of spirituality in the Western world, is speaks of the way in which we have “become distant from ourselves and from God at the heart of our being.” He emphasizes that “the return to God is the return to the center of all life.” Hope.
Nan Merrill, whose work as assistant director and advisor for the Guild for Spiritual Guidance training course, has interpreted the Psalms in beautiful, healing language and writes in Psalm 24, “Who shall ascend your hill, O Gracious One? And who shall stand in your holy place? All who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, nor make vows deceitfully. All these will be blessed by the Heart of Love, and renewed through forgiveness. Such is the promise to those who seek Love’s face.” Hope.
David sings of cleanliness and purity, and though I have fallen short so many times in those areas, I hear the encouragement to open the creaking doors and rusty gates of my heart and welcome restoration. A later verse says, “Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the Compassionate One may come in. Who is this Compassionate One? The Beloved, Heart of your heart, Life of your life, this is the Compassionate One!” Hope.
What mercy do you need in your life?
Have compassion for yourself, as the Compassionate One does. Don’t blame yourself for making bad mistakes that you deeply regret. Sometimes you have grown unexpectedly through these mistakes. Frequently, in a journey of the soul, the most precious moments are the mistakes. Bring a compassionate mindfulness to your mistakes and wounds. Visit this place in your soul with forgiveness in your heart. When you forgive yourself, the inner wounds begin to heal. You come in out of the separation of hurt into the joy of inner belonging.
We all have a need to belong. Humans are tribal in nature; it is the part of our universal DNA – that part of us which makes us all One. In hope we are drawn to create kinship and seek out others in our “tribe.” We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to belong. Hope creates space for and opens doors for that. We gather together in celebration of that hope and break bread. We communicate hope in the feedback we get from each other; we discover ourselves, our truths, our gifts, our purpose. “All these will be blessed by the Heart of Love, and renewed through forgiveness. Such is the promise to those who seek Love’s face.” Hope.
Hope is the grace of becoming aware of who we truly are, and choosing to live out of that truth. John Philip Newell tells the story of the father trying to wake his son up for school in the morning. The son responded to the knocking at his bedroom door by saying, “I am not going to get up, and I shall tell you three reasons why: the first is because I hate education, the second is because the children tease me, and the third is because education is boring.” To which the father replied, “You are going to get up, and I shall tell you three reasons why: the first is because it is your duty to get up, the second is because you are forty-five years old, and the third is because you are the headmaster.” We need to wake up to who we are – choosing to get up and to live according to the hope that has spoken within us and be transformed by that truth.
What does change look like in your life?
Healing is hope; it is giving. Giving out of the grace and hope the Beloved has given me. Giving from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit one, by one, by one. Giving of my time, my energy, my single dollars when I can. Giving out of the precious intimacy I share with the presence of the Beloved. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” I know now that, at times in the past when I was shattered, seemingly beyond repair, the Beloved never left me, not for a single second. God was as close as my next breath, and near as my heartbeat. And still is, all the time. Hope.
Jesus is always here. Calling to you. How will you answer?
What I most want to say to shine the Light of Hope into every heart here is that the single most basic human need we have is to know that we matter. So for each person whose life touches mine, the greatest desire of my heart is to communicate is that he matters. She matters. They matter. You matter. AMEN.